The Arizona Desert Lamp

Looking forward to a UABOR?

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 21 January 2009

While focus remains rightly on the current budget situation, Shelton also took time to criticize other introduced bills in the current legislative session:

Shelton also discussed the potential impact of House Concurrent Resolution 2002 sponsored by Rep. Warde Nichols, R-Gilbert.

The proposed resolution would be an elimination of the current structure of the Arizona Board of Regents, and instead the three state universities would be overseen by individual boards with legislative ties.

“We have a terrific Board of Regents,” Shelton said. “And for the legislature to want to politicize the operations of the universities, I think, is a very bad sign.”

Shelton said this could mean the legislature would get into detailed levels of budget allocations, including potentially managing all the tuition income of the universities.

“This really violates basic business practices,” he said. “Business practices are you hire great people, you entrust them with responsibilities, and you push the decisions down to the people who are really in the know.”

To get some background for Shelton’s criticisms, let’s take a look at how the Arizona Board of Regents is actually chosen. From the state Constitution, Article XI, Section 5:

The regents of the university, and the governing boards of other state educational institutions, shall be appointed by the governor with the consent of the senate in the manner prescribed by law, except that the governor shall be, ex-officio, a member of the board of regents of the university.

Right now, the governor appoints all ABOR members, and the Senate must confirm. This, of course, parrots the “advise and consent” clause in the U.S. Constitution. But are presidential appointments political? Of course they are. To suggest that this is an apolitical process following “basic business principles” is not only wrong, but bizarre.

Now, compare Shelton’s characterization of HCR 2002 with the actual bill text (which, as a note of clarification, would serve as an amendment to the aforementioned constitution text):

B.  Each public university in this state shall be governed by a separate board of regents for each university.  The board of regents for each university shall consist of the following members who are appointed with the consent of the senate and who serve eight year terms, to begin and end on the third Monday in January:

1.  One member who is appointed by the president of the senate.

2.  One member who is appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives.

3.  Three members who are appointed by the governor.

C.  The board of regents for each university shall have powers and duties as prescribed by law.

D.  Notwithstanding subsection B, the initial terms of members of the boards of regents for each university are:

1.  For the members appointed pursuant to subsection B, paragraph 1, four years.

2.  For the members appointed pursuant to subsection B, paragraph 2, five years.

3.  For the members appointed pursuant to subsection B, paragraph 3, one term shall be six years, one term shall be seven years and one term shall be eight years.

All that has happened is that the power of appointment has been diffused. It’s hard to say why the legislature would more meddling under this set-up than they are usually. The governor still has the most power, appointing the most seats with the longest terms. All seats still must be approved by the Senate. Shelton never fully explains why the appointments of Jan Brewer would be so much more effective, and so much less political, than the appointments of Kirk Adams or Bob Burns.

Shelton’s concerns over this resolution (which, incidently, would have to be approved in a state-wide vote to be enacted anyways) also do a great job of burying the lede, which is that the University of Arizona would have its own Board of Regents, completely separated from ASU and NAU. What such a system allows is for each university to make decisions independent of the others. Already the Board of Regents is a quasi-independent legal structure (the term “legal corporation” is thrown around when talking about BoR’s), but allowing the UA to have its own board would be a huge step forward in becoming independent. And, of course, it follows in the paths of the U. California and the U. Michigan systems.

Another related idea is making the Board of Regents an elected body. The Chronicle discussed the idea back in 2004, in the article, “State Regents: Should They Be Elected or Appointed?” (The article requires a password, but you can access it through the Library’s article search with a NetID.) Four states — Colorado, Michigan, Nebraska, and Nevada — currently use such boards for their public university systems, with varying opinions on their success.

2 Responses

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  1. […] to the extant Board of Regents – who came up with the policy in the first place – but rather to give each university its own board of regents – a UABOR, an ASUBOR, and a NAUBOR. These boards of regents would be far more sympathetic to the […]

  2. […] less enrollment and more control (which they should), they really should consider whether having a separate Board of Regents might be worth striving […]

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